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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second half brace and a late penalty from Alexandre Lacazette secured Arsenal a flattering 3-0 victory over Stoke at the Emirates Stadium.


Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second half brace and a late penalty from Alexandre Lacazette secured Arsenal a flattering 3-0 victory over Stoke at the Emirates Stadium.

The international break was supposed to have ended, but this game was played at a pace that would have made even the most dull of last week’s friendly games look breakneck as both sides struggled to exert any control over a dreary contest until Aubameyang’s penalty after 75 minutes.

For Arsenal this was perhaps no surprise - their Premier League campaign has long since become a non-event - but Paul Lambert’s Stoke were remarkably tepid for a side who now have just six games to secure safety.

Arsene Wenger had rested several key players including Laurent Koscielny and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with his priority clearly Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final first leg against CSKA Moscow. He was not the only one whose focus was elsewhere.

Most of the Arsenal side scarcely got beyond walking pace in a dreary first half. Stoke perhaps showed greater endeavour but, with Mame Biram Diouf leading the line, the visitors rarely threatened David Ospina, replacing Petr Cech after the first-choice goalkeeper had suffered a groin injury.

Arsenal’s best chances of the first half fell to Aaron Ramsey, once more the subject of distasteful chants from Stoke fans in relation to the broken leg he suffered from Ryan Shawcross’ challenge in 2010.

He nearly responded to that abuse in perfect fashion on 23 minutes, when he pounced on Jack Butland’s spill, lobbing the ball over the Stoke goalkeeper but onto the roof of the crossbar.

Soon after Ramsey forced a sprawling save from the England goalkeeper with a well-struck strike, but Arsenal’s toothless attack was typified by the fact that their 68 per cent possession in the first half translated to just 30 touches between Aubameyang and Danny Welbeck.

The game moved closer to flatline pace in the second half, though half-chances for Welbeck and Mohamed Elneny 10 minutes in briefly roused a far-from-full Emirates from a justifiable torpor.

Some fans were even on their feet when Lacazette made his return to the Arsenal side for the game’s final third, replacing Welbeck after an hour that will have done his hopes of securing a spot in the England squad no good whatsoever.

With over £100million of striking talent on the pitch it was inevitable that more chances would come Arsenal’s way. A brilliant through ball by Mesut Ozil found Aubameyang cutting in from the left, but Butland stayed tall to block the shot.

Though Stoke had half-chances at the other end - and saw Xherdan Shaqiri’s corner crack back off the post with Ospina stranded - their defensive line couldn’t hold.

Bruno Martins Indi was the culprit, bringing down Mesut Ozil inside the area with just over a quarter of an hour left, though replays suggested the centre-back got the ball before his man.It was Aubameyang who took the resulting penalty, netting his third goal in as many league games for his new club as he sent Butland the wrong way.

Stoke were unable to test Arsenal and only collapsed further as first Aubameyang volleyed home unmarked from a corner and then Alfred N’Diaye brought down Lacazette inside the area.

The one-time Arsenal record signing refused to allow Aubameyang his hat-trick, instead sending Butland the wrong way as the Gunners faithful toasted a win that has their great rivals teetering on the brink of relegation
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